Louis Theroux: America’s Most Hated Family In Crisis

3 04 2011

America’s Most Hated Family In Crisis is a follow-up to his acclaimed 2007 documentary The Most Hated Family In America, and sees Theroux return to Topeka, Kansas for a second visit to the Westboro Baptist Church.

A fire-and-brimstone Christian group, made up of 80 members of the Phelps family, has garnered worldwide notoriety thanks to their funeral picketing of soldiers killed in action.

Believing they were killed as God’s punishment for America’s toleration of homosexuality, the family wield anti-gay placards while singing their own disturbing lyrics to Lady Gaga tunes.

In the four years since Theroux’s first documentary, a series of defections of family members has shaken up the church. They’ve also been at the centre of a landmark supreme court case (the court ruled that vicious anti-gay rhetoric was constitutionally protected) and their beliefs have become increasingly bizarre.

For Theroux the story has moved on, which is partly why he wanted to return. That and the fact he admits he’s “fascinated” by the Phelps family.

“It sounds really odd to say this but there are aspects of them that are quite nice, given how hateful they and the pickets are,” he says, adding he found his attitude towards them “modulated”.

“When you’re on the pickets you find yourself shocked and sometimes upset by what they’re doing, and then at other times you see them as normal people. The challenge is to try and manage your reaction,” he explains.

“I mean we’re human beings, they’re human beings, in some way you have to guard against demonising them too much, and against becoming desensitised by being around them.”

The documentary is being broadcast tonight at 9pm on BBC2 – make sure you tune in.

Keith Allen Vs. West Boro Baptist Church

22 07 2010

I have previously mentioned my distaste for the “work” of Fred Phelps and the West Boro Baptist Church.

If you have read my previous posts about the WBC you might have read about a documentary I particularly enjoyed by British comedian/actor Keith Allen in which he tears Shirley Phelps Roper a new one for being a nasty small minded hypocrite.
Well I finally managed to find this documentary online in a version that is actually of a watchable quality, so here it is:

Pope could be charged for covering up sex crimes

14 04 2010

The pope could be charged for covering up the crimes of paedophile priests.

There is an awful lot of buzz at the moment about the possibility that when he visits Britain from the 16th- 19th September the Pope could be arrested and charged “crimes against humanity” for his role in helping to cover up the horrific sex crimes carried out by members of the clergy.

“Barrister Geoffrey Robertson and solicitor Mark Stephens are considering whether they could either ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope; launch their own civil action or refer his case to the International Criminal Court.

Author Christopher Hitchens said he does not believe the Vatican to be a legal state which raises questions as to whether the Pope, as head of state, could claim diplomatic immunity.

He said: “The UN at its inception refused membership to the Vatican but has allowed it a unique “observer status”, permitting it to become signatory to treaties such as the Law of the Sea and (ironically) the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to speak and vote at UN conferences where it promotes its controversial dogmas on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.”

The group have cited as precedent the recent case of Israel’s former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who cancelled a visit to London after a British judge issued an arrest warrant over her alleged involvement with the conflict in Gaza.”

The campaign is also being backed by leading atheist Dr Richard Dawkins;   Dawkins wrote on his blog: “I am optimistic that we shall raise public consciousness to the point where the British government will find it very awkward indeed to go ahead with the Pope’s visit.”

You can read the article from the BBC in full here.

Well I for one say go for it.

I don’t think that it will necessarily amount to anything but I do very strongly feel that it is the right course of action to take.

Some people are going to say that the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins have their own agendas that they are furthering as a result of this, well so what! Of course they have their own agendas, more or less everyone out there has there own agenda,  it doesn’t lessen in anyway the fact that this is the right thing to do.

Whether or not it works, whether or not it is judged to be legally viable, that really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Catholic Church in general and the Pope in particular need to be made to see that this isn’t something that can be swept under the carpet or smoothed over with a  parochial letter.

At the moment the Vatican are getting very defensive about the whole affair and are going on the counter offensive by trying to make out that they are  the victims in all of this.

That sits badly with me, without actually saying the words they are victim blaming and negating the horrific abuse suffered by thousands over the years.

So yeah put the Pope on trial, it might make him sit up and realise that there are very real consequences here and now, not just the justice of some supreme being who may or may not exist. Somehow that doesn’t really sound very fair when compared to the corporeal lives that have been ruined.


7 04 2010

It was brought to my attention recently that this week on Facebook there are a group of people running an “Anti-Scientology Week” (unfortunately I can’t export a link to it so you will have to search under events)

Now I am not normally someone to jump on the bandwagon of Facebook groups as they are about as useful a chocolate teapot, no one is ever going to make changes to something just because some bunch of herberts on Facebook tells them too.

But it did get me thinking a bit more about Scientology; now I wouldn’t say that I am completely ignorant of the basics of Scientology but that would certainly be the limit of my knowledge.

I guess I have always been the same as a lot of other people and just dismissed them as being a slightly kooky bunch who aren’t really doing any real harm and seem to carry out a lot of charitable acts. Oh and of course John Travolta and Tom Cruise are big proponents of the cause.

Well after a few days of digging around and research I must admit I am less inclined to dismiss them as slightly kooky but harmless, in fact I think I would say that what I have read leads me to view them as something altogether more worrisome.

Whilst undoubtedly they do a lot of good through their charitable works around the world (for which they are to be commended) there seems to be a far darker under current running through Scientology. Now that isn’t to say that Scientologists are bad people or that they are any less entitled then anyone else to follow their beliefs.

I’m not going to go into whether or not I deem Scientology to be a religion or not, that is for other people to debate, nor am I going to start picking apart their beliefs, for some information on what scientologists broadly believe click here, again that is best left to other people.

What I am interested in and slightly concerned over is the way the church responds to anyone who is deemed to be critical of the church or even wants to ask questions of which the church and it’s spokespeople disapprove.

There are numerous incidents of the church or it’s spokes people acting in a less than helpful manner when asked certain questions; the big one that seems to trigger the worst response is whether or not the Scientology is a cult.

Now I can understand that to some people with very strong beliefs this might come across as an offensive or disrespectful line of questioning, but at the same time there must be a reason for people to ask this sort of question and hold these beliefs regarding scientology.

Have a look at the video here to see how senior church spokesman Tommy Davis responds to this question when asked it by BBC journalist John Sweeney for Panorama

There are countless recordings showing similar responses to what really and truly whilst not an easy question to face is a valid one:

Is Scientology a cult?

I for one would politely suggest that if you wish people to take you seriously and give you respect the very least you need to do is show respect back, grant people the access they want, answer their questions; don’t just shout and scream at them or cut across anything they try to say.

If Scientology isn’t a cult maybe they shouldn’t be quite so defensive about the whole subject and should take the moral high ground.

The other thing I found completely distasteful about Scientology is their policy of carrying out “fair game ” attacks on their detractors, critics and many others that try to dig a little deeper into their activities.

Although the church officially suspended the practice of fair gaming people as far back as 1968 there is evidence to suggest that the practice never really went away, former high ranking members of the church have testified under oath that as part of their work within the organisation they were privy to our responsible for the carrying out of fair game attacks on the opponents of the church.

When you read about people being followed around, receiving nuisance calls and being the targets of smear campaigns it sounds less and less like the acts of a religion and more and more like a bad mob movie.

I guess for me I just can’t reconcile the two sides of the coin; on one hand we have a church that offers a lot of help to people that need it and undoubtedly has enriched the lives of thousands, on the other hand we see see childish reactions to valid questions and the strong-arming of the people who dare to ask them.

Unfortunately for Scientology I think that until they sort out some of the contradictions in the way they act there are always going to be those people who oppose them.

Nate Phelps Returns to Topeka

31 03 2010

A little bit of a change from the norm today; I wanted to give some publicity to a man by the name of Nate Phelps.

Nate is the son of Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church; some of you might be familiar with their message and the work that they do, some of you might not.

For those of you who don’t know about the WBC here is a quick taster if you will of some of their activities:

This is taken from the BBC documentary ” The Most Hated Family in America” by Louis Theroux.

The WBC openly publicise their hateful views and are often found picketing across the US, a particular target being the funerals of soldiers, which no matter your view on war most people would deem to be a distasteful act.

However what a lot of people aren’t aware of is the abuse that has been meted out on the family of Fred Phelps as a result of his heinous beliefs.

Nate Phelps put up with terrible physical and emotional abuse until the age of 18 when he left the family and made his own life, you can read Nate’s blog here.

For me one of the most shocking things about Nate’s story and the Westboro Baptist Church is that Fred Phelps is still to this day walking around as a free man,  despite terrible acts of abuse.

Hailing as I do from a country that has for years been embroiled in acts of abuse by people in positions of religious authority I feel very strongly on the subject and would call on all right thinking people to join me in supporting people like Nate Phelps who are making a stand and bringing subjects such as these kicking and screaming into the light of day.

As such I would like to draw your attention to the forthcoming event:

Nate is the estranged son of “God Hates Fags” Pastor Fred Phelps, and he is now returning to his hometown, which he hasn’t been to in many years. Nate will tell his story of growing up in the family that founded the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, which he left at midnight on his 18th birthday.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation will be filming the event as part of an upcoming documentary about Nate’s story of religious abuse, how he survived, and his mission to fix the laws that protect the perpetrators.

The event is FREE TO THE PUBLIC, so we encourage everyone in the area to attend if possible. This is also the first time one of the Phelps children has spoken out publicly against the church in their hometown.

The advertisement can be found in it’s original form on http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5332

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